Journalist Mario Alegria questions Podemos’ political weight in his debut column
THE BIG question this year is whether Podemos will still be able to carry its political impetus through to next November’s elections.
The sudden rise of this political party, which proposes radical changes to almost every Spanish institution, has proved more than just a nuisance to the ruling Popular Party (PP) and opposition PSOE.
Podemos officials, including its leader Pablo Iglesias, have been hitting the Spanish airwaves ever since they surprisingly won a chunk of seats in the European Parliament last year. And their numbers in the polls have been rising.
Yet this far-left group, which has attracted many followers, is still having a difficult time trying to calm the fears of many who believe that Podemos will try to impose a Venezuela-style government in Spain.
And that fear campaign – no doubt launched by the PP and the Socialists – is only just beginning. We have already seen several Podemos members on the defensive after they have been asked about their more-than-average wages, public funded university contracts, and fees as ‘consultants’ to the Venezuelan government.
Iglesias responded by claiming at a rally last year that both major parties are running scared, and he may be right in that sense.
The two-party system has monopolized Spanish politics for more than 35 years, fueling corruption, engaging in questionable power-sharing partnerships at different institutions, and pretty much ignoring calls from citizens to act decisively against corruption.
If the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intends to stop Podemos’ rise from what is quickly becoming a moribund system, immediate action is needed to improve government and party transparency and to overhaul the country’s archaic judiciary.
The only way Rajoy can achieve this is to ask the Socialists for their help in pushing through these reforms before the elections. There is already talk of a political coalition between the PP and PSOE to stop Podemos.
But with ancient wounds that still need healing inside both organizations, such a move is a recipe for a disastrous short-term government and would only serve to give Podemos more time to convince today’s reluctant voters.